Conflicts, concerns over medical marijuana implementation addressed by law enforcement

OKLAHOMA CITY - Officials from law enforcement agencies are turning to lawmakers to flesh out gray area when it comes to implementing medical marijuana.

The Oklahoma Department of Public Safety was among several agencies that met on Wednesday at the capitol. For the past four weeks, lawmakers on a working group have invited various organizations and agencies to speak on the affects of State Question 788.

The goal is create recommendations for a permanent framework and rules.

"We’re very black and white in our arena. There’s not a lot of gray area in law enforcement. The law are the the law. They are what they are," said Dr. Ed Rhoades, medical director for the Oklahoma State Department of Health.

At Wednesday's meeting, Rep. Jon Echols pointed out a conflict when it comes to rules over the possession of marijuana.

"When the citizens passed State Question 788, it had a change that possession of 1.5 ounces of marijuana and a medical condition would be a $400 fine," Echols said. "When the citizens voted on 780, they changed the simple possession statute to 1,000 dollar fine and one year in prison."

Right now, both state questions are law. Echols presented speakers a hypothetical situation, asking them which state question they would apply if someone were to be pulled over with marijuana.

"At that point, it would be follow 780 but, quite honestly, we don’t know. We don’t know because there is conflict and there is confusion in that arena," Rhoades said. "I’ll be very honest. We don’t know which way to turn on that right now. Our guys are nervous about it. They’re real nervous about it. They really are."

Echols said what they do is know is district attorneys across the state will have discretion.

"When we come into session next session, that’s something that needs to be cleared up because there is a little bit of confusion left in the law," he said.

The working group also heard recommendations from law enforcement, including the District Attorneys Council. Brian Hermanson is the district attorney for District 8, which covers Kay and Noble counties.

"I’m the drug prosecutor in my county. I’m shocked at how many times a vehicle’s pulled over and a vehicle is described as being very thick in marijuana smoke when they open the door," he said.

Hermanson brought up the idea of not allowing smoking marijuana in vehicles by anyone.

"If they have to medicate, they can perhaps stop and do something along the way or do that before they leave for wherever they’re going," he said. "This is medical marijuana, not recreational. There’s no reason they should be driving down the roadway, putting other people at risk and smoking marijuana."

The next meeting is at 9 a.m. next Wednesday. An agenda is expected by Friday.

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